Milestone not Millstone: 35,000 boat-borne asylum seekers in 36 years

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Milestone not Millstone: 35,000 boat-borne asylum seekers in 36 years

Media Release
Thursday May 31, 2012 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"One of the passengers on the vessel that arrived yesterday from Sri Lanka at Cocos Island can be listed as the 35,000th passenger reaching the safety of our borders since 27 April 1976 seeking Australia's assessment assistance in claiming asylum protection against persecution," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"In an analogy to barrister Julian Burnside's comparison, the Melbourne Cricket Ground not half full, as he claims, but it's filled today to a third of capacity. At the rate of the last 36 years of boat arrivals, we will have to wait 75 years before the MCG is full with maritime asylum seekers," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"While we do not dare hope for a decent Australia in the political contest where asylum seekers are degraded into political fodder, it remains true that politicians like Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison need to declare an end their filthy rhetoric every time a boat arrives, and that News Ltd news outlets need to cease their filthy and dreamt-up manipulative reporting."

"This morning, The Australian newspaper suggests some kind of vague criminality on the part of the passengers and skipper of the vessel when it suggests that the boat "managed to evade[d] the watch of Customs and Border Protection vessels". The Australian has no factual basis to suggest such "evasion" but constructed it because it seeks to sell its newspapers while fanning xenophobic and border-anxiety fears. The facts suggest the exact opposite to "evasion": asylum seeker vessels sail TOWARDS the authorities, in almost all cases TOWARDS Christmas Island, the place where they are detained and processed under UN Convention criteria.

"Such manipulative reportage is standard fare for many News Ltd papers. To me it is filthy gutter journalism, produced by opportunistic bottom feeders who sell their wares while keeping their readers ignorant and uninformed about the true reason asylum seekers take to boats attempting to reach Australia as a country that has signed the UN Refugee Convention, that has an annual refugee intake quota and that has one of the world's best individual refugee assessment systems," Mr Smit said.

"A broad summary shows that Australian boat arrivals are amongst the world's most successful refugee claimants with a consistent approval rate (following assessment and review mechanisms) of between 80-98% since 1999. Yet, fed by xenophobia and invasion fears, all Labor and Coalition governments happily peddle manipulative and false rhetorical constructs ever since they started arriving in 1976, and they have played to "border invasions", using border anxiety and invasion fears for political purposes. The treatment of asylum seekers remains one of Australia's most disgusting markers of rock-bottom morality and stinking ethical standards in politics - greedily reflected, enlarged and blown out of all proportion through sensational reportage by the Australian media.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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